When you’re doing the Free Comic Book Day issue aimed at enticing moviegoers of a just-released major motion picture to take a look at comics featuring those same characters, you’ve got to nail the tone, style and energy that make those heroes so beloved on the big screen. And in “All New Guardians of the Galaxy,” writer Gerry Duggan and artist Aaron Kuder do just that.
The story opens with the Guardians in the custody of the Nova Corps, and Peter Quill running his mouth off to serve as distraction while Rocket works on their escape. Star-lord insists they’re being held on “old, and frankly, invalid warrants” because “most of my priors are from planets that don’t even exist anymore.” Gamora scolds him, Drax broods, Rocket boasts. It’s a good, solid scene establishing each character’s personality and showing readers that these are the good guys, but that they’re maybe not that good. Kuder’s layout, offering a big central image of Quill, Gamora and Drax with scattered panels of Rocket skittering about the edges, all framed by an establishing shot of the Nova Corps’ space station.
When Baby Groot arrives on the scene, the slapstick escalates.
Drax’s newfound pacifism is also a running joke, and it lands every time. Even as Quill attempts to capitalize on the Destroyer’s fearsome reputation to intimidate foes, Drax undermines his efforts by proclaiming loudly, “I will not strike you!”
Drax’s situation speaks also to the team’s new status quo; it seems quite a lot has happened in the however-much-time between the end of Bendis’ run and the beginning of “All New.” Some unknown event has caused Drax to renounce violence; Groot is a sapling once again (due to, as we learned in the already-released “All New Guardians of the Galaxy” #1, some type of injury); and Gamora seems to be keeping secrets. And there’s a mysterious new-old villain, a cloaked figure representing the Fraternity of Raptors, a brutal cabal dealing out its own version of law and order. This creates a nice jumping-on point, as fans jumping on fresh off of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2” will be on the same page as longtime readers.
Oh, also, it has a soundtrack.
Duggan, a veteran of “Deadpool,” seems a strong choice for a Marvel Cinematic Universe-inflected take on the Guardians of the Galaxy, and he’s hit his stride quickly. Kuder, too, carries off both the action and comedic elements through a combination of facial and physical expression and eclectic layouts and panel framing. The first word that comes to mind is fun, and that’s just as it should be.
Whereas normally this sort of Free Comic Book Day issue would lead in to a new series or event, Marvel made an interesting decision and, as already alluded to, released the first issue of the “All New Guardians of the Galaxy” ongoing series earlier this week. That means, when fans go into their shops for FCBD, there will also be a brand-new #1 available for sale. This seems like a smart move, as it will provide a ready opportunity for retailers to hand sell the paid issue to readers who grab the freebie.
And that #1? It’s just as good an intro for fans old and new.